Pac-12 Bowl Projections: Oregon State Falls Hard At The End

The Pac-12 has some teams that are feeling disappointed as they await the announcement of bowl slots on Sunday night. USC lost to UCLA last week, a defeat that may have cost interim head coach Ed Orgeron a chance to be the permanent boss. Washington lost its head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who got the aforementioned USC gig.

Oregon played its way first out of the national title race, then out of the conference championship. Stanford missed a chance to be in the discussion for the national title. But no team fell harder down the stretch than the Oregon State Beavers.

After a 6-1 start, Oregon State lost five straight to end the regular season. Before we read too much into the dichotomy of what amounted to two seasons, let’s first look at how the schedule laid out. The Beaver slate was heavily backloaded, with those five defeats coming at the hands of Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon.

What has to be more frustrating for Oregon State head coach Mike Riley is that his team, for the most part didn’t play badly. The loss to Oregon was a one-point crusher in the closing seconds. The defeat to Stanford was a competitive game.

Oregon State acquitted itself reasonably well at Arizona State. The USC game was a decisive 31-14 loss, and the Washington game an embarrassing 69-27 home thumping, but its not as though the Beavers went into a meltdown in November. The lack of a running game–leading rusher Terron Ward has just 467 yards on the season–catches up to you against quality opponents and it did for Riley’s team.

Oregon State also put together some nice wins on the front end of their schedule. They beat a pretty good Mountain West team in San Diego State, and the Beavers hammered bowl-bound Washington State by a 52-24 count. Sean Mannion had a nice year at quarterback, leading an offense whose 382 pass yards per game was third in the nation, and Mannion tossed 36 touchdowns. The fourteen interceptions are high, but a reasonable cost of doing business in this kind of scheme.

Taken altogether, it’s not as though Oregon State had a bad year, but at the end of the day when you lose five straight–three of them at home–it’s going to leave a bitter taste, particularly when your program just went to the Alamo Bowl in 2012, the best of the Pac-12’s non-BCS bowl berths.

Let’s move on to our Pac-12 bowl projections then. As things stand right now, the league is not likely to get a second bid to one of the major bowls. Stanford and Arizona State will settle the Rose Bowl berth on Saturday, and then the Alamo would start the selection process for the lower-tier games.

There is still a reasonable avenue for an at-large spot though. Oregon is eligible to be chosen, ranked #12. Stanford is currently seventh, and if a loss on Saturday was competitive, they too would likely stay in the top 14 and be eligible.

Of the four at-large spots, you can concede one to Alabama and probably another to Clemson (no conference can get more than one at-large). That leaves Baylor, the Michigan State-Ohio State loser and Northern Illinois angling for the final two spots.

The Pac-12 needs to pull for Northern Illinois to lose the MAC Championship on Friday night, because otherwise the Huskies will qualify automatically. It would be preferable for Michigan State to lose the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans are a possible at-large selection as a runner-up, but the Buckeyes are a virtually certain one. If Texas could knock off Baylor it would certainly help, though it might not be necessary. The big key for this conference is that Northern Illinois has to lose.

If the Pac-12 gets a second team, it would probably be Oregon. Even conference fans who don’t cheer for the Ducks have a vested interest in seeing their league get two bids, because it moves everybody else one step higher on the ladder. TheSportsNotebook has broken its Pac-12 bowl projections two ways, the first assuming no at-large berth, the second assuming there would be.


BCS Automatic: Stanford-Arizona State winner (Rose, vs. Ohio State/Michigan State)
Alamo: Oregon (vs. Oklahoma)
Holiday: Stanford-Arizona State loser (vs. Kansas State)
Sun: UCLA (vs. Virginia Tech)
Las Vegas: USC (vs. Fresno State)
Fight Hunger: Washington (vs. BYU)
New Mexico: Arizona (vs. San Diego State)

BCS Automatic: Stanford-Arizona State winner (Rose, vs. Ohio State/Michigan State)
BCS At-Large: Oregon (Orange, vs. Clemson)
Alamo: Stanford-Arizona State loser (vs. Oklahoma)
Holiday: UCLA (vs. Kansas State)
Sun: Washington (vs. Virginia Tech)
Las Vegas: USC (vs. Fresno State)
Fight Hunger: Arizona (vs. BYU)
New Mexico: Washington State (vs. San Diego State)

Washington State joins Oregon State at 6-6, and at least one, if not both, will be available to fill spots from conferences who didn’t meet their quota (the Big Ten & Big 12 being prime examples). One note on the projections–in the second set, I didn’t move USC up a notch like everyone else, because the Trojans were in the Sun Bowl last year.